In a new candid interview with CBS titular station, Microsoft co-founder and famed philanthropist Bill Gates discusses his former company's struggles in the mobile era. Microsoft today accounts for less than 5 percent of the smartphone market, according to most estimates.
For a time, Microsoft held nearly a quarter of the fledgling smartphone market (circa 2004). But it failed to keep up with rivals like Google and Apple sticking for years with the increasingly dated Windows Mobile platform. In November 2010, Microsoft launched a new operating system, Windows Phone, which was ambitious but lacked strong third-party hardware support. Today Microsoft is still struggling to sell the market on its latest mobile OS -- Windows Phone 8.
Bill Gates in the interview calls Microsoft's former cellphone strategy "clearly a mistake", remarking, "There's a lot of things like cellphones where we didn't get out in the lead early. We didn't miss cellphones, but the way that we went about it didn't allow us to get the leadership."
The tech icon says that both he and current CEO (and close friend) Steve Ballmer are both incredibly "self-critical". He comments, "He [Ballmer] and I are not satisfied that in terms of breakthrough things that we're doing everything possible."
Mr. Gates expressed confidence, though, that it's not too late for Microsoft to claw its way to a significant mobile market share. He's a big fan of Windows 8 and Microsoft's Surface tablet.
Microsoft is reportedly aiming to unify the Windows and Windows Phone platforms under one consistent set of mostly overlapping APIs and user interface themes, to allow users to feel more comfortable with both form factors, and to help developers save time deploying cross-platform apps. The first unified release, Windows Blue, may land late this summer.
The revisions are also accompanied with some big leadership change. Windows President Steven Sinofsky was driven out and new rising stars are taking his place at the company. Some investors have called on CEO Ballmer to step down, but for now Mr. Ballmer is hanging tight in the top spot, vocal as ever.